Postpartum preparation is a major gap in mainstream childbirth education.
Where it’s covered, it tends to focus on nipple cream, padsicles and peri bottles.
And that stuff IS important, but it can’t stop there.
What I Mean When I Talk About “Postpartum Preparation”
As a pregnancy and postpartum fitness coach, I work through a core and pelvic floor informed lens.
My bias is that a strong postpartum physical recovery, and even emotional recovery, is rooted in core and pelvic floor health.
When I think about preparing folks for postpartum, I’m thinking beyond the first few weeks.
I’m thinking about recovery at the 6 month or 6 year mark.
I’m thinking about how we can prepare during pregnancy to optimize long term pelvic health and return to activity.
5 Ways To Prepare For PostpartumHere are 5 things that all pregnant folks should do DURING pregnancy to set themselves up for their strongest postpartum recovery.
1) Learn to listen to your body.
You’ve got to RE-learn to listen to your body.
As women, as folks with an estrogen-based biology, we get trained out of that.
We’re taught to push through pain and minimize our own feelings of discomfort.
And if you didn’t learn that by social conditioning, you probably learned it in the gym.
During pregnancy, you HAVE to listen to signals that your is giving to you.
Learn to recognize signs and symptoms of strain on your core and pelvic floor so that you can respond. So you can mitigate that strain before it becomes problematic.
By minimizing strain during pregnancy, you can optimize for a better baseline for your postpartum recovery.
2) Educate yourself around pelvic floor function and considerations for childbirth.
As you are curating your prenatal curriculum, I encourage you to include a chapter on pelvic floor health.
A 2021 study found that folks who receive prenatal pelvic health education, including information about:
- pelvic floor function
- the potential for injury during pregnancy and childbirth
- the timeline for postpartum rehab<
report fewer pelvic floor symptoms postapartum.
Cool, right? That’s because extent of injury and symptom severity don’t actually correlate. Pain is complex, and it has a lot to do with the brain and what the brain expects and perceives.
The upshot of this study is that just by being well-prepared, folks had an easier time coping postpartum and a smoother recovery.
The folks who had the harder time?
They were the ones who had the greatest discrepency between expected and actual outcomes postpartum.
Said another way, folks who didn’t feel well prepared for their pelvic health outcomes reported worse phyiscal symptoms AND worse mental health symptoms (related to postpartum depression and trauma).
Of course, you don’t have to go and get an advanced degree in pelvic health to be well prepared.
But set yourself up for success by learning the basics of function, dysfunction, considerations after childbirth.
3) Breathe for core and pelvic floor coordination.
I encourage everyone to practice a breathing strategy that taps into the deep core system (diaphragm, deep abs, pelvic floor).
Disruptions to the deep core are correlated with all the aches and pains and various ish that we think about with pregnancy and postpartum. The leaking, the prolapse, the diastasis. Back aches.
Learn to breathe for good connection between all the pieces of your deep core and you can harness that coordination to assist with pushing during labor.
The Connection Breath is an excellent place to start.
4) Invest in pelvic floor physical therapy.
Establish care with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
During pregnancy, a pelvic floor therapist can help you prepare your pelvic floor for an efficient labor. And an efficient labor stacks the deck for a better baseline for your postpartum recovery.
Post birth, they’re an invaluable member of your postpartum support system.
I recommend you book out an appointment for about 6 weeks after your estimated due date. It’s one thing you can remove from your mental load during those first weeks.
5) Develop a return-to-activity plan.
While you might not be able to develop a return-to-activity plan with PRECISION, it’s a valuable thought experiment.
Here are some ideas:
- Plan to take 6 weeks off from exercise after giving birth.
- Plan to take it slow and begin with breathing exercises that re-train your core and pelvic floor.
- Think about where you’ll go for your postnatal fitness (because you can’t just jump back into what you were doing.)
If exercise is important to you, research you local online resources during pregnancy so they’re on tap when you need them.
Control only what you can
With thoughtful postpartum preparation, you have an opportunity to set your postpartum body up for success. But remember, all we can do is stack the deck. We can’t control the outcome.
But no matter the outcome, you will be prepared. And that makes all the difference in your experience and long term outcomes.
🖐🏼 Before you go:
If you’d like support navigating exercise during pregnancy OR developing that postpartum return-to-activity plan, fill out my contact form. I offer 1:1 personal training to support an active pregnancy and strong postpartum recovery.
Johnson, Kimberley T., et al. The Importance of Information: Prenatal Education Surrounding Birth-Related Pelvic Floor Trauma Mitigates Symptom-Related Distress. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, vol. 46, no. 2, Apr. 2022, pp. 62-72.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me with questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I offer customized, online pregnancy and postpartum personal training to folks locally (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and beyond.